Mi'kmaq community holds healing walk in memory of Rodney Levi
'We need healing,' say community members mourning Mi'kmaw man shot by police
About 100 community members marched in the heat ahead of the funeral Friday of Rodney Levi, a Metepenagiag First Nation man shot by RCMP last week.
Levi was the second First Nations person to die at the hands of police in New Brunswick in the span of eight days.
The other, Chantel Moore, a Nuu-chah-nulth woman of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in B.C., was shot by an Edmundston Police Force officer who was performing a wellness check on her.
On Friday, members of the community about 30 kilometres west of Miramichi set out to walk from a field to the church, where the funeral was held.
Only 50 closest family and friends were to be allowed inside the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church because of COVID-19 physical distancing measures.
A small crowd stood outside the school parking lot across the street as people wait for the service to finish. They held signs reading #IStandForRodneyLevi.
Levi, 48, was shot last Friday by a Sunny Corner RCMP officer who responded to a report of an unwanted person at a home.
Ivan (Tee) Cloud, from Metepenagiag First Nation, waited at the community hall to drum for the family to welcome them to the community feast after the burial. He said the impact of Levi's death has been "devastation."
"We all know him like he was our brother," he said. "I grew up with Rodney. … since I was a kid. And to go through this is terrible, man. For everybody, especially the family, and the mother."
"We need healing," he said.
Ken Levi, Rodney Levi's uncle, said the community has been supporting the family.
"They've been happy. … The support for the First Nation and the chief and council, it's overwhelming," he said.
He said he's been communicating with the coroner, the RCMP and the investigation team, but he hasn't had the opportunity to sit down with just the family, so he's not sure what they'll be doing next to cope with the loss.
Metepenagiag First Nation Chief Bill Ward said there have been many eyes on the community and a lot of anger, sadness and grief.
"Today was the hardest day, finally laying him to rest, putting him the ground, it was tough for the family, it was tough for the community," he said. "But the hardest day has passed us now, and I think we can move forward and start seeking justice."
Ward said so many people attending the walk and helping the family throughout the week is a testament to Levi's character — just a friendly dude, always happy and helpful."
"You have to be a good person for everybody to come together."
Continuing to demand reform
On Wednesday, the New Brunswick government met with First Nations Wolastoqey and Mi'kmaq chiefs to talk about systemic racism and their desire for an inquiry into the justice system.
Ward said the last meeting was "more of the same" from the provincial government.
"It's kind of that paternalist-type attitude that we're used to from the government."
Ward said he doesn't think all of the ministers understand what systemic racism is, but some do. He said there are people in government willing to listen to First Nations voices and learn from them, but they're held back by the people who won't.
Ward said he plans on meeting with Premier Blaine Higgs again in two weeks.
"We're going to ask for an inquiry again and we're going to hope to have a different answer this time around."
RCMP have not confirmed where Levi was shot. However, the Boom Road Pentecostal Church issued a statement In which lead pastor Brodie MacLeod said Levi was a welcome guest at "our home and he attended our residence where he shared a meal with my family and I."
MacLeod was at Levi's funeral and gave a reading, Ken Levi said.
The Quebec bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, or BEI, is investigating both Moore and Levi's deaths to see if the police accounts of what happened were accurate and if any criminal charges against police should be recommended.